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A prank call, also known as a crank call or nuisance call, is a form of practical joke over the telephone. This includes threatening someone over the phone as well as hanging up the phone once the receiver has picked up the phone. Repeated prank calls can amount to harassment, stalking or even bullying. It is important to use common sense and realise that prank calls can cause fear and distress to other people.
Which types are prank calls are considered offences?
- Threatening to kill someone (not necessarily the person you called) over the phone with the intention that they will believe you.
- Threatening to cause serious harm to someone (not necessarily the person you called) over the phone with the intention that they will believe you.
- Threatening that you have left/will leave an explosive or dangerous object somewhere with the intention that they will believe you.
- If you menace, harass or cause offence to a person over the phone, either by what you are saying or the way you are saying it.
The penalties for making threatening calls can be very serious.
Calls to emergency services (000)
- Dialling ‘000’ and pretending that there is an emergency. Penalty – 3 years imprisonment.
- Dialling ‘000’ for a reason other than an emergency situation. Penalty – 3 years imprisonment.
The penalties for making prank calls to emergency services can be very serious.
Calls are not only considered to be prank calls when it is threatening. Other types of prank calls may be classified as harassment depending on the words said, time and its circumstances.
So it is possible that you are not intending to threaten someone over the phone, but if your calls are annoying the receiver, they can ask their mobile company or the police to investigate and trace the prank call.
What can I do if I receive a prank call?
Hang up immediately. If you keep getting prank calls, you can make a complaint to the local police. They can then investigate, and, if necessary, prosecute the person who made the call.
You can also contact your phone company to help. For example, Telstra has a special call centre to help customers who are receiving unwanted phone calls. However your phone company is not obliged to disclose the information of the person calling you, unless asked by the police.
If you receive a phone call, you should not:
- Find out yourself who the caller is – this may be dangerous
- Threaten the caller
- Pretend you are a police officer when receiving the phone call (Impersonating a police officer)
If you threaten the caller or pretend to be a police officer, this may result in you being investigated for a criminal offence.
Stalking by prank calls
Unwanted contact through any technological means that happens more than once and causes concern or fear may constitute stalking. This means that repeated prank calls may be considered stalking. The penalties for stalking by prank calls can be very serious.
Bullying by prank calls
Repeated prank calls may also be bullying. If the prank calls becomes harassment, or illegal threats, then it becomes a form of bullying. Please refer to our Bullying section.
This information was last reviewed 6th June 2010.